Sunday, February 14, 2010

"Worldiness" Myths Exposed

First off (before I jump in to this subject), for the record I know I haven't been posting too much on here...perhaps that will change over time. For the moment life has been rather busy, let alone on the nothing-much-to-post-about side. However if things go as planned, I may have much news to report by next weekend, God willing. In the meantime, its just a matter of holding out till May, my last final run for the finish line. But anyway...

Now I'm sure you've heard the term before, even been called it yourself once or twice by various well-meaning, but highly conservative Bible teachers and pastors. For the most part, it runs a lot like this, an idea pushed by highly traditional, conservative churches that look on the change in America grimly (and hardly without reason, for the most part). It rose up from the writings mainly of 1st John and Jesus' words in the Gospels. The argument is this, in a few words:
"Don't do what the world does, its sin!"
And quite bluntly, they are least, somewhat. The idea behind it though it what bothers me. Sure, I get it, I'm not interested in being part of the world any more than most of you are! Or thinking how it thinks or talking like it talks or doing most of what it does, BUT what bothers me is how many teachers take it.
"...Which implies: Don't listen to 'worldly' music, watch 'worldly' movies, go 'worldly' places, wear 'worldly' clothes, or enjoy 'the things of this world!'" You know, rock music, Television, bowling alleys, perhaps wearing unusual attire, etc.
However, the question I'd like to ask is this: What about driving cars? Wearing shoes? Living in a nice house? The world does those things to!
Well, not that so much, as this: Then where is the line? What IS the world and what isn't?
This is something I've slowly been coming to realize, and study into at length over the past weeks, and I'd like to share it extensively with you. I know what half of you are saying already, I'm sure, one of two things:
1) "Alex, be careful, after all, its written right there in the Bible, legitimately enough! There are commands against worldliness there!"
or 2) "Yeah Alex, you're on the right track: But its a matter of a mindset, or a way of thinking, not actions! Being worldly just means being different, that's all!"
Well, sort of...and somewhat. Read on, I think you'll be surprised how it turns out.

Well like I said, and like most of you are saying, IS written in the Bible. In fact, the subject comes up nearly 50 times, in nearly 203 places. In the KJV, the word "world" comes up 203 times. After some research, I've found to my surprise and some disappointment, that 34 of those times its translated incorrectly, usually from the word, "age" instead of "world." (Sorry for you KJV only folks, but you're Bible is hardly more perfect than any other translation. Another topic for another day.) I'm going to lay out some of the most important passages for the "worldliness" argument in the Bible right here, and we'll look into the subject carefully. (Note: You'll note, some of you who REALLY stay up on your Scripture, that I won't include Romans 12:2. I found that is a slight mistranslation. Ask for more info below, if you want to know.)

"If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you." -John 15:18(Jesus speaking)

"We have not received the spirit of the world but the Spirit who is from God, that we may understand what God has freely given us." -1st Cor. 2:12

"You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men?" -1st Cor. 3:3
(interesting side note: apparently here foolish quarrels, and jealously are marked by Paul as worldly. Yep, correct. That is a command. But on to the even bigger picture.)

"May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, through which[a] the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world." -Gal. 6:14

"As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, 2in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient." -Eph. 2:1-2

"Since you died with Christ to the basic principles of this world, why, as though you still belonged to it, do you submit to its rules: 21"Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!"?" -Col. 2:20-21

"It teaches us to say "No" to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age," -Titus 2:12

"You adulterous people, don't you know that friendship with the world is hatred toward God? Anyone who chooses to be a friend of the world becomes an enemy of God." -James 4:4

"Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him." -1st John 2:15

(Much as I dislike pulling Bible passages for topics like this, I'm going to for this topic.)
By reading over these key verses, and many, MANY other such passages in Scripture, its pretty easy to conclude that in short, the 'world' the Bible writers talk of in the New Testament is evil. Not only that, it is given over to sin, corruption, and eventual destruction, AND is ruled over by Satan himself who commands it as supreme master. This "world" that is so often spoken of is something we are commanded by Scripture to keep different from, be 'not of the world.' Obviously, for good reason. We are also commanded to avoid its passions, and not to love it nor the things of it. Interestingly, it also abides by some rules bordering on legalism in Colossians. "Do not see, handle, touch!" In this context he is speaking of the restrictions the somewhat-worldly (in part, not all) laid on fallen Israel(the majority Israel that is not saved). Again, another topic for another day.
"Alright, sure Alex, we know that!" You say, "We know we're not to be of this world, or its children, or to love it or the things of it. What of it?" Well, my question above is still that case, what IS the world? Is it really all this 'worldly' music, items, material things, or just a mindset? Or both? Or neither? And how can we tell what is worldly and what isn't? Define "world" for us!
Many a pastor/teacher (perhaps with perfectly well-meaning, but misguided idea) will hesitate. Some say any music with a backbeat is 'worldly.' Some think television itself is, others will say going to the movies is not Christian...various things. But still, there's no definite answer from any corner, no one is willing to say, "Ok, THIS is what it is, period." It's mostly...(And I'm sorry to offend if I do in saying this)just seeming to be personal opinions, pushes for agendas other than the Bible's. Traditionalist and extreme conservative thinking. Which is ok, certainly! Nothing wrong in the least with them (in themselves)! That is, until they try to interpret the Bible incorrectly. Then I have a problem.
"Yeah yeah yeah, Alex," you say, "So what then? Let's just suppose what you're saying IS true...what of it?" Well, simply this: Thankfully for us, there is a definition of the world, in its entirety, right in the Bible itself! As good as any dictionary!

"Do not love the world, nor the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life, is not from the Father, but from the world." -1st John 2:15-16

Hmm...this passage claims that the world, and everything in it, is made up of those three objects: The lust of the eyes, the lust of the flesh, and the pride of life. Period. Is THIS the world that we are so avidly commanded to avoid and remain apart from all through Scripture? It seems a very blunt, precise, and complete definition.
Therefore ladies and gents, based on all above, consider this: The world, which is ruled by Satan, corrupted entirely by sin, and this elusive thing we MUST avoid as Christians, is THIS:
1) The lust of the eyes.
2) The lust of the flesh.
3) The pride of life.

Well, what are they, you ask? And exactly how do we avoid them, and what does that mean to us? How do we apply this to our lives, in seeking to obey Scripture? Well, while you tell me what you think (chew me up if you want, don't worry. Feedback on issues like this is priceless), I'm going to write about them...all three issues, that make up the sinful world we must avoid. Look for the next post!

1 comment:

  1. Three more brilliant entries like this, expounding directly from the Bible in the original koine Greek on a subject matter that everyone seems to have their own personal take on? Take all the time you need; I'll be patiently and anxiously awaiting the next segment.


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